Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bridge Blog 599: Cellar dwellers

Judy Kaprove and I set a record in the morning session at the Airport Bridge Club Tuesday – the lowest score that either of us has ever posted. 24.48%. It was so bad that it was ridiculous. We just laughed.
My previous low, as best I recall, came at the old B&P Duplicate on a day when I was paired with the late Cliff Vogelsang, just before he disappeared into senior dementia. Dementia wasn’t our problem Tuesday, though, just exuberance, a missed slam or two and a few misplayed cards.
There were nine absolute bottom boards out of 24 and three more tied for bottom. We had three straight zeros against Jerry Geiger and Judi Marshall, who were the winners at 75%. They should give us a gratuity.
It seemed as if things were improving in the afternoon Swiss teams match, but our luck lasted only one round. We earned .23 of a point, .01 of it gold. I believe I’m still in the lead in the club’s master point race this month, though. In all, I’ve racked up 22.58 points, .28 of them gold.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bridge Blog 598: Buffalo Regional Wrap-up

Ruminations while rambling through the results from the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament posted on the ACBL website.
The Ted Kahn-Dian Petrov partnership, which was remarked upon during the compact knock-outs on Friday, bore fruit elsewhere. They won the Tuesday afternoon side game (2.58 points). In all, Ted got 5.23 points.
Why didn’t I see Bruce Burr and Ross Markello at the regional? Because I was in the pairs and they were in the knock-outs on Tuesday, playing with Carlton Stone and Eleanor Whelan. They won Bracket 3, got 9.20 gold points.
That team we faced in the Sunday Swiss teams game – the guy from Mentor, Ohio, and the other guy from Astoria, Queens – were Peter Merker and Nicholas Hartung, respectively. They’re definitely A strat players and they won the Tuesday open pairs game Celine and I played in, raking in 14.35 gold points. They finished tied for 38th.
Top Buffalo area point winner for the tournament was Chris Urbanek with 63.85, just behind the two Maryland people – Paul Benedict and Lynn Jones – who tied for first at 64.53. Former Buffalo player Joel Wooldridge, listed as hailing from Astoria, was in a three-way tie for fourth with 58.14.
Other leading Buffalo players include:
John Toy, 41.35 (23rd)
Saleh Fetouh, 38.46 (32nd)
Jay Costello, 32.40 (42nd)
Dan Gerstman, 30.30 (43rd)
Bert Hargeshimer, 29.61 (tie for 44th)
Christy Kellogg, 29.61 (tie for 44th)
Jay Levy, 27.56 (47th)
Michael Ryan, 27 even (49th)
Stan Kozlowski, 23.67 (58th)
Dian Petrov, 22.68 (63rd)
Alex Kowal, 22.49 (64th)
Jerry Geiger, 21.21 (68th)
Penny Shui, 19.69 (71st)
Eleanor Whelan, 18.88 (74th)
Peter Shui, 18.81 (75th)
Jim Gullo, 16.34 (86th)
Donna Steffan, 15.80 (92nd)
Bob Padgug, 15.64 (96th)
Judy Padgug, 15.29 (100th)

Where did my 12.12 put me? 153rd, just ahead of Liz Clark’s 12.09. In all, 705 players got points.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bridge Blog 597: Buffalo Regional Day 6

What a mob scene the Swiss team grand finale of the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament is! I can’t catch the full number of teams, but it seems like more than 70 (we’re No. 47).
The competition, meanwhile, seems positively incestuous. Our first opponents are the team headed by Dave and Jane Larcom, which includes another East Aurora denizen, Rob Hessel, and our friend from the Niagara Peninsula, Andy Fairweather. How did my flogging go? he wonders (see Blog 596). Blogging, I tell him. Blogging. They’re another C strat team and we don’t want to beat them badly, but we do, 33-7 IMPs, which gives us a high victory point total right off the bat. This is not good, I tell teammates Pawan Matta, Florence Boyd and Usha Khurana. We’re going to get tougher opponents.
Our second round foes, Guelph guys, are rated as C players, but we’re told later that the Chinese guy, Gary, has only joined the ACBL lately and is much better than his master point total indicates. No kidding. They vanquish us, 24-9, our weaknesses showing up in two games that we should have bid. Take those away and we lose only by a couple IMPs.
Third round pits us against a guy from Mentor, Ohio, and a guy from Astoria, Queens. Agreeable enough folks, but they’re an A team and they squash us, 20-2, thanks partially to me not taking Usha out of a 3 Heart bid when I’m void in the suit.
Fourth round opponents also are A team, the Evans team, grandma and grandson playing Pawan and Flo, dad Chris and mom Debbie playing me and Usha. This time we prevail, 27-22, and I’ll take credit for 22 of our points on offense, engineering a successful 5 Diamonds doubled sacrifice (down two, not vulnerable) and a vulnerable 3 No Trump with an overtrick.
After we beat a Toronto couple, Doug and Ann, in the fifth round, I reckon that we’re on top of the C strat with 83 victory points so far. We might just collect some extra red master points, maybe even gold. But that would require winning one of our last two rounds. We don’t.
Up against Buffalonians John Kirsits and Paula Kotowski, part of the Carlton Stone team, a B team, we succumb, 17-10, thanks to an overbid by Usha and an underbid by our teammates at the other table. Then we face my Wednesday-Thursday knockout teammates. Al is at our table with Bill, the guy who played with him Saturday, and although five of the seven scores are on our side of the line, at the other table, all seven are on the opposing side. They whip us big, 24-1.
We finish with 92 IMPs and three wins in individual matches. The match wins are worth 0.36 red point apiece, giving us all 1.08. To get more, we needed one more win. With 96 IMPs, we would be sixth in the C strat, netting more than 2 red points. With 108 IMPs, we’d match the Carlton Stone team, which is 12th in B and gets gold. Add 20-odd points to our total, which one more victory would give us, and we match Al and Alison’s team, which is ninth in B and second in C, with 2.83 gold points.
Summary for the week. Tuesday: 0. Wednesday and Thursday: 9.37 gold for second place in the knock-outs. Friday: 0.91 red for winning our first knock-out match. Saturday: 0.46 red for winning our first match in the compact knock-outs and another 0.30 red for winning 1.5 rounds in the single session evening Swiss team game. Sunday: 1.08. Looks like my tournament total is a grand 12.12.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bridge Blog 596: Buffalo Regional Day 5

It’s mop-up day for those 200 people who didn’t win in the big bracketed knock-outs on Friday – 40 out of 48 tables. Some of us go to the open pairs. More of us go to the Saturday compact knock-outs. That’s where Judy Kaprove and I pin our hopes, with Carl and Jan Hasselback as our cohorts again. Once again we’re in the third bracket, essentially a C stratification, and we succeed in the first 12 games against my old Toronto friend Joan Dixon and her seemingly constant partner, John. They take an 11 International Match Point lead against us in the first round of six hands, then fall to us by 31 IMP margin in the next six.
We move on to a team that includes my two Canadian teammates from the Wednesday-Thursday knock-outs, Al and Alison. Al is at our table, playing with a guy named Bill. They build an 18-0 lead on us in the first six hands, which turns out to be more than we can overcome in the second six. They beat us 25-16 overall. Our reward? 0.46 red points for the first round win and a chance to play single-session Swiss teams in the evening.
The evening game starts 15 minutes late to make up for time lost in the middle of the afternoon game when the fire alarms go off. Everyone heads for the sheltered entryways, hiding from the ongoing drizzle, until the fire trucks come. No fire is found (just too much smoke in the kitchen, we’re told) and the alarms are silenced. They erupt again 10 minutes later and this time everyone ignores them.
The Hasselbacks bow out on the Swiss teams, so we team up with a couple Chinese guys from Toronto – Chris Chang and Tai (didn’t catch the rest of his name). Both life masters, so we’re in the B strat, which is just fine, and it’s a genial evening all around, though not entirely successful.
We begin against a couple Niagara Region Canadians that we know – Hilda Fairweather and Wayne Kershaw – and lose to them by a single IMP, 14-13. In the next round, we play Hilda’s husband, Andy, and a woman from Canisteo named Jean Reardon. We tie, 13-13. (Here’s where I give them 8 IMPs on a hand that would be floggable, as well as bloggable. I bid a Michaels bid, intending to indicate holdings in the unbid Hearts and Clubs, but instead show support for Judy’s Diamonds – I was void in Diamonds. It made 4 Hearts. Judy’s 3 Diamond bid went down three.) Nevertheless, we’re not in a bad place at midpoint, since we’re just under 50%.
Our next opponents are a pair of droll ladies from Smith’s Falls, halfway between Ottawa and Kingston, Ont. My big hand is a 3 No Trump that the other table doesn’t find, which gives us 10 of our 15-6 IMP victory.
We’re second in the B strat going into the final round and draw an A team as opponents – the Risman team from Toronto. Andy Risman is a Unit 166 board member. His partner, Jan Stewart, knows Judy’s sister in Toronto. They’re playing Precision and weak 1 No Trump openers. And although they confound us a bit with their bidding, we have a jolly time with them, so jolly we don’t realize how badly we’re getting beaten. (Some of it also has to do with our teammates at the other table.) They take us to the cleaners, 28-6. We finish six victory points short of being in the top 5 B teams, which are the ones that get extra points. For our victory and a half, we earn 0.30 red points.
Sunday’s finale is the grand Swiss team playthrough – seven rounds, seven hands each. Our team has lost Faith Perry – she’s come down with some dreadful respiratory bug that makes her sound like a stevedore.  Playing in her place will be Usha Khurana, with whom I did so well earlier in the week. This means that I’ll partner with her instead of Florence Boyd. Florence will have to play with Pawan Matta, who originally was going to play with Faith. It should be an interesting day.

Bridge Blog 595: Buffalo Regional Day 4

Can history repeat itself? I’m back in the third bracket knock-outs Friday afternoon with Judy Kaprove and the Hasselbacks, Carl and Jan, and we start out in a three-way contest again. We prevail again, too, beating both of the opponents (one being a team with Peter and Penny Shui and Dian Petrov as a fifth wheel platooning with Ted Khan, the other being Dottie May and Helen Panza), winning all four matches.
After a big delicious Italian dinner at Fortuna’s in Niagara Falls, the city looking more down and derelict than Buffalo over around 19th and Pine, we return to face the team Usha and I beat in the semi-finals Thursday, the Mulhall team. This time they take no prisoners. We’re 34 IMPs behind at the break and do even more poorly in the second half, losing by 77. No contest. Winnings for the day amount to only the 0.91 red point for winning in round one. With no Swiss teams on the schedule for Saturday, the Hasselbacks agree to join Judy and me for the compact knock-outs. Can history repeat itself in miniature?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bridge Blog 594: Buffalo Regional Day 3

Take a good look at your bathroom fixtures, I tell people at the Grand Island Holiday Inn before the Thursday afternoon session starts. Next year they’re going to be gold. The big news is the bankruptcy sale of the tournament’s venue to a ritzy resort company from Dubai for $4 million. They’re going to turn it into an upscale operation. Many are wondering if the bridge tournament could afford to rent the place once it’s all spiffy. Would we go back to the Adam’s Mark in downtown Buffalo? Shudder to think.
Our knock-out team may be out of our league as well, playing in the semi-final round. We’re in a little corner of the big ballroom, we surviving knock-outers. But we have our 5.36 gold points, so everything else will be gravy. Our opponents are the Mulhall team from Oakville, Ont. – Dave Duff and Tom Cowles at our table, a couple business-like but agreeable guys.
We open by setting them one trick on a 1 Club contract (!), but then it’s my turn to wince internally when Usha overcalls 2 Clubs on the second hand and goes down two vulnerable. That, we see later, costs us 11 Internaional Match Points. We make it up later in the round when we hold Dave and Tom to 2 No Trump, bid and made, on a hand where our teammates bid and make 3 NT. We win the first round, 16-11, and shut them out in the second round, 15-0. We’re 20 points ahead at the break and we’re feeling good.
We shouldn’t be. The roof falls in right away in round three. Dave and Tom start bidding and making 3 NT contracts and our teammates don’t. In two hands, they’ve made up that 20-IMP deficit and a couple more. In that round, they stomp us, 32-2. It’s the first round we’ve lost since our knock-out adventure began and we’re 10 points behind. The final round has four “pushes,” hands in which the results are a draw. In the other two, however, we prevail. One of them is a pass-out that gives us 5 IMPs. The other is another of their 3 NT contracts, this time down one, giving us 7 IMPs. Just enough. We win the match by 2 IMPs!
We now have 9.37 gold points and we’re overjoyed as we head out for dinner. Alison and Al don’t want to join us at the place where Usha wants to go, the very busy Beach House, which is kind of a glorified diner/bar. The Beach House is fast, though. We’re back at the Holiday Inn with more than an hour to kick around before the evening round.
I examine the knock-out brackets taped to the wall of the ballroom and discover that Usha and I are the only Western New Yorkers left in eight teams playing the finals. Our opponents are Kay team from Mississauga, Ont., specifically Kathy Hill and Linda Cook, who are high-spirited, even a bit goofy. We have a lot of laughs with them.
They also are really good. Although they’re in our bracket, they’ve played a lot of tournament knock-outs together (I recognize Linda from other tournaments) and both are Bronze Life Masters. Kathy, in fact, just reached Bronze in this knock-out game.
Usha and I make our fatal mistake in the very first hand. I open 1 Spade, she jumps to 4 Spades, we make two overtricks. At the other table, the Kay team answers the opening 1 Spade with a 4 Heart splinter bid and goes on to slam. Minus 11. Later, we hold up at 2 NT on an iffy hand, while the Kay team bids and makes 3 NT. Minus 10. We lose the first round, 27-1. Ouch.
In the second round, our teammates stumble. They fail in a 3 NT contract that Kathy and Linda make (they play it from the opposite direction, get a different lead). We lose this one, 14-1. At the break, we’re down 39 points.
As we’ve seen, a 30-point deficit can disappear in a flash and we hit our stride in the third round, winning 14-1, thanks mostly to my success in a 3 NT contract. That still leaves us with 26 points to make up. But the final round is essentially a draw. We win it, 20-19, we see when we do the tally, but we’ve already congratulated the other team. Alison and Usha seem unhappy at the defeat, but I’m not. We won 9.37 gold points, doggone it. I came into this tournament figuring I’d be lucky to win anything at all.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bridge Blog 593: Buffalo Regional Day 2

A message is waiting on my cell phone Wednesday morning from a woman named Alison Burkett from the 519 area code who says she’s picked up the info card I left at the partnership desk at the tournament Tuesday. She and her partner would like to be teammates with me and Usha Khurana in the knock-out competition that afternoon.
When I call back, I say fine, except somebody from the partnership desk told me Tuesday night that they already had teammates for Usha and me. Not sure why you have our card, I tell Alison, but since you have it, I think you should have preference, but we’ll sort it out with the partnership people when we get there.
The partnership chairwoman – Faith Perry –  confirms that yes, she told me Tuesday night she lined up Kit Nash, one of the stalwarts from the St. Catharines, Ont., club, and Betty Metz, our own Unit 116 president, to play with us. Then why did Alison have our card, we wonder. Alison is getting a little snappy. Betty Metz begins reaching for her upper vocal register. Clearly, if we’re all going to play in the knock-outs, another pair needs to materialize.
And they do. Burly Lane Byl, a good player from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., whom Celine and I had faced Tuesday, is looking to fill out a team. Who do we want? Faith asks. I think for a second and say we should go with the people who picked our card – Alison and her partner, Al Charters, a genial 80-something guy we also played against on Tuesday. Turns out they’re from Canada also – Kitchener-Waterloo.
That settled, we go to the auxiliary ballroom for the game. It’s a huge game, divided into four sections according to master points. Even Bridge Bulletin cover guy Joel Wooldridge, last year’s grand national champion, is there. We’re Team 54 and, since our point total is less than 3,000 (Al has 850, Usha and Alison have about 250 each), we are in the third section, mostly C strat players. The game is so huge that half a dozen of the knock-out games are transferred to the main ballroom.
There also are three three-way games and we’re in one of them. I like three-way knock-outs, because the pressure to win or die is off. The top two teams survive. Our first opponents in the 24-board opening round are Ed and Doug, a couple genial guys thrown together at the hotel, one from the Pennsylvania-Delaware border, the other from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (we’d seen him Tuesday, too). The others are familiar friends from home – Helen Panza and Dorothy May.
Although I warn Usha that no game is complete for me unless I rack up at least one score of minus 800, we don’t do that. Closest I come is a 3 Club non-vulnerable bid over Helen and Dottie’s Spades. I have six Clubs, nine high. Usha has a low singleton. Down four. Dottie says afterward she should have doubled. She should.
This is after Helen calls the director on the opening hand, where she passes after Dottie doubles Usha’s 1 Club opener and I erase it by bidding 2 Clubs with a weak hand (I have five of them). Helen contends that Usha talking had distracted her and she didn’t notice the double. The director tells her she has to watch the bids. We beat them by 12-7 International Match Points on that round and that hand gives us 7 of our IMPs. We wind up bettering both the other teams – 20-11 over Ed and Doug, 43-7 over Helen and Dottie (we trounce them badly in the second round). Despite this, Helen and Dottie’s team survive to play in the evening game. That’s why I love three-ways.
After another dinner at Dick & Jenny’s, we return to face a pair of totally agreeable Rochester ladies – Claire, who grew up in eastern Tennessee, and Mary, who grew up in Dunkirk (DHS, Class of  ’63, we know people together). They’re very smooth players, but like Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, there’s a big inning early in the match and it’s all over.
It comes on the second board, Board 26, with our East-West opponents vulnerable. Claire opens 2 Spades weak, Usha passes, Mary bids 3 Diamonds. Holding about 10 high card points and five-card suits in Hearts and Clubs, I double to show preference for the unbid suits. Amazingly, Usha passes on it and the double stays in. Mary gets to play the hand in Diamonds, which Usha has plenty of. Down four – 1,100 points, which translates later into 16 IMPs. Our teammates, who don’t overcall the opening 2 Spades, also have a plus score on that hand. The rest of it is uneventful. We win all four rounds – 21-2, 10-5, 7-0 and 19-14. We live to play in the semi-finals on Thursday. And having won two rounds, we get gold points, 5.36 of them. Usha is overjoyed. These are her first gold points. If we continue to be successful on Thursday, I tell her, we could win 9 or 13.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bridge Blog 592: Buffalo Regional Day 1

The pall of Wednesday’s bankruptcy sale hung over the Grand Island Holiday Inn in many subtle ways as the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament opened Tuesday. Discarded paper towels decorated the washrooms. To get the only coffee available, you bought a cup at the front desk for $3 and got unlimited refills from the urn. The lights were dark in the parking lot. And word was that the entire staff had no idea how long they would have their jobs.
My personal pall began early, when I woke up to the rain. What a dark and dreary day. Celine Murray and I matched it by playing a dreary game in the afternoon half of the two-session open pairs game. On more than one occasion, Celine let my take-out doubles ride. Disaster ensued. On the worst one, where she opened 2 No Trump, the opponent bid 3 Diamonds and I doubled to indicate a transfer to Hearts, she left the double in and I compounded it by revoking. We could have made six Hearts, but instead we were on the short end of 3 Diamonds doubled vulnerable.
The preliminary results after 12 rounds found us in 25th place out of 29 North-Souths in two combined sections. The final tally found us tied for next-to-last North-South in our section with 41.03%.
The best part of the day turned out to be dinner at Dick & Jenny’s, recommended by final-round opponents Elaine Kurasiewicz and Carol Bedell. Dick and Jenny are refugee restaurateurs from New Orleans, wiped out by Hurricane Katrina and resettled on Grand Island. The food was inventive and first-rate. I went for the lingering $20.12 Restaurant Week taste-sized special, which included the Wild Louisiana Crawfish and Andouille Cheesecake with Grilled Wood Smoked Shrimp and Buffalo Fire Sauce Butter, a beautifully-plated and spicy dish with a name almost bigger than its portion. For the entrĂ©e – Bronzed Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Basil over Mascarone Polen ta with Green Beans and Smoked Tomato Balsamic Vinegarette.
Then it was back to the tables with a vow to do better. Sitting East-West this time, we watched the good cards go to North-South. Celine played most of the East-West contracts – nine out 26, while I played three, including one where she boosted me into a 5 Heart doubled contract after bidding me out of a makeable 3 No Trump. Overall, it seemed as if we played better and made fewer mistakes, but when the preliminary results went up, there we were, 25th again. Our final position was slightly better – 10th out of 15 East-Wests in our section – with a better percentage, 46.75%. Out of those 15 East-Wests, 12 got master points. We were among the other three.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bridge Blog 591: Big questions

        Big Question No. 1: Should I set a goal for the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament this week at the Grand Island Holiday Inn? Goals seem to work in sectional tournaments this year, but I had far less success in those regionals in Cleveland and Syracuse. Actually, what I want to do is help other people get some gold points.
        So we’ll see what happens when I play pairs with Celine Murray on Tuesday. And we’ll see what kind of team Usha Khurana and I put together on Wednesday and Thursday. (Usha and I had 48% for a three-way tie for third in a tiny six-pair game at the Airport Bridge Club on Monday).
Friday and Saturday could have had the best prospecting, but Selina Volpatti is staying home to attend her sick husband. And my Sunday Swiss teams excursion with Flo Boyd, Pawan Matta and Faith Perry? Sometimes we win. More often we lose. So let’s keep our gratitude ahead of our expectations here and just have a good time.
        Big Question No. 2: Would it be more profitable to forget about the regional, play club games at the Airport Bridge Club and save some bucks? (This week is going to cost me $148 in entry fees vs. $42 for club play.) Probably not, if the past three days are any gauge. Although I have 22.35 points for the month (0.27 gold), I’ve only accumulated minor fractions in Swiss team games since Paula Salamone and I came in second on Friday with 61.54%. So, hello, Grand Island.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bridge Blog 590: Not-so-great expectations

My delight at playing opposite Selina Volpatti for the first time in many, many months in the Swiss teams game on Sunday at the Airport Bridge Club quickly diminished. Our mutual exuberance expressed itself in a burst of overbidding, for which we were promptly slapped down.
Laid equally low were our teammates, Rob Hessel from East Aurora, who teaches bridge in adult education classes there, and Nancy Warren, a law firm librarian who said she only plays three or four times a year. After we were shut out in each of the first two rounds, she was taking headache pills. We have more chances, I said, hoping to reassure her. Even if we win only one round, we’ll get points. We’ll even get a fraction of a gold point.
Our fortunes did, indeed, begin to change. We won three of the remaining four rounds and emerged with just enough victory points to come in first in the C strat, which turned out to be highly rewarding – 2.61 master points, with 0.16 gold.
That put my total for the month at a healthy 16.87 and, best of all, inched me into second place in the club’s overall master point race for the year with 149.23 points, fractionally ahead of Mike Silverman at 149.10. First-place Jerry Geiger is way out front with 181.02.
Mike regained second place on Monday, winning more than a point as he played with Art Matthies. They got a top board from me and Judy Zeckhauser, thanks to a 5 Diamond sacrifice bid that went down four instead of down three. Judy and I feared that we had a 30% game going and were amazed to find ourselves at 47.89%, not winners, but we felt better anyway.
Beverly Dale and I had the same sinking feeling on Tuesday. Everything seemed to go wrong. I indulged in another sacrifice flame-out for minus 800. And Beverly, who’s normally sharp, was losing tricks she didn’t have to lose. On one 5 Diamond contract, where everybody else made an overtrick, she forgot a trump was out and went down one. Imagine our surprise to find ourselves at the top of the North-Souths on the preliminary score sheet. We slipped a little when the final tallies were posted, but still finished with 55.18%, second in our direction, for 1.43 points. Total for month now – 18.30.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bridge Blog 589: Rabbit fever

October was off to almost as much of a jackrabbit start as September until the first weekend arrived and illness intervened. I was going to play the Airport Bridge Club’s individual game on Saturday, but club manager Bill Finkelstein wasn’t feeling well enough to run it. I came without a partner on Sunday to play pairs, but there weren’t enough people to make up even an individual game.
That night at work I came down with a nasty cold – my nose refused to stop dripping. Heavy doses of decongestants got me through the Monday morning half of the Columbus Day chicken barbecue event at the Airport Club, where Judy Kaprove and I came in second overall with 59.74%, earning 1.55 points. Though I was too miserable to realize it at the time, this pushed my lifetime total past the 1,400-point mark. In the afternoon, I was so wiped out I shouldn’t have played – I was making semi-conscious mistakes. Our game suffered accordingly – 44.96%. I went home, called in sick for work and crawled out of bed only to ingest some chicken soup and more cold pills.
Recovered enough on Tuesday to keep a promise to take a friend to the airport before the game, I went in to post a 53.94% with Barbara Sadkin, which was fourth overall and first in the B strat in our direction, good for 0.89 of a point. I was better still, but not fully cured, on Wednesday when I sat down with Celine Murray. We were flying high until we hit a couple bad final rounds, dropping us to 57.48%, third in A, second in B, for 1.5 points.
The cold evaporated at the office Wednesday night – I actually felt better when I left at 3 a.m. than I did when I walked in at 5:30 p.m. So even with a short night’s sleep, I was ready to roll at 10 a.m. Thursday for the first half of the week’s second double session – the morning pairs game. Alicia Kolipinski and I came in second overall with 59.43% and earned 0.49 of a point (this not being an extra-point game). The afternoon session, however, was very much of an extra-point occasion. Triple points with 5% gold, in an 18-board Swiss team event. Teamed with Ross Markello and Bruce Burr, Alicia and I tied for first, earning 1.94 points, plus .10 gold. (Last October I accumulated about a third of gold point this way.)
Meanwhile, Friday partner Usha Khurana called Thursday to say that she hadn’t realized that the wedding she was attending this weekend would get in her way. I got to play instead with the Friday substitute – Paula Salamone – and we reckoned (rightly) that we weren’t having much success. Even so, our 45.68% game put us third in the B strat for 0.79 of a point. Total for these occasionally feverish five days – 7.26 points, even better than last week. Thirteen days into the month, 13.30 points.

Bridge Blog 588: Reality check

Now that the ACBL has posted the monthly numbers for the master point races, let’s see how my actual positions on the lists compare to my confident projections last week. After all,, September was my best point-gathering month in more than two years. I had high hopes.
On the Unit 116 level, which is just Buffalo, sure enough, I’m now in third place on the Ace of Clubs list with my 141.47 points earned in club play. Carlton Stone remains on top with 151.92, while Mike Silverman is second with 142.16. The rest of the Top 10 are John Ziemer, 139.39; former leader Vince Pesce, 128.23; Liz Clark, 127.34; Jim Gullo, 116.51; Barbara Libby, 107.05; Carolyn Siracuse, 99.92; and Michael Ryan. 90.85.
On the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney list, which includes both club and tournament points, my total is 166.85, but here I’m in fifth place, eclipsed by the unit’s successful tournament players. The new top dog here is John Ziemer with 263.74, followed by two of this year’s previous Mini-McKenney leaders, Judy Padgug, with 251.68; and Dian Petrov, with 239.76. Right in the middle of the big step between the big three and me is Mike Ryan with 193.66. The rest of the list includes Jim Gullo, 161.28; Carlton Stone, 157.78; Mike Silverman, 153.71; Liz Clark, 147.26; and Vince Pesce, with his 128.23 Ace of Clubs points.
Onward to the District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) level. Last week I figured I’d be fifth in Ace of Clubs and around 20th in Mini-McKenney. And that was pretty close. I’m actually fourth in Ace of Clubs, with Robert Maier of Morgantown, W.Va., slipping in at second with 144.79. I’d expected that Francine Feldman would be ahead of me, too, but she must have had a slow month. She’s eigthth with 119.88. All the rest of the Top 10 are Unit 116 players. There are 13 of us in all on the Top 25, with Judy Padgug, 90.05; Paul Libby, 89.74; and Gene Finton, 75.11, also making the big list. Cutoff was at 73.08.
The District 5 Mini-McKenney finds me in 19th position. The Unit 116 leaders are all clustered near the top. John Ziemer is third, Judy Padgug is fourth and Dian Petrov is sixth. Continuing as leader is  Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio, with 428.80, followed by Robert Maier from Morgantown with 290.61. Mike Ryan is 12th, Jim Gullo is 20th, Carlton Stone is 21st, Mike Silverman is 23rd and Liz Clark is 25th.
I haven’t seen my name on the national Ace of Clubs Top 100 list since 2010, but I scanned it this month just because I was curious to see where the cut was. Turns out the cut is at 135.14. I’m on board – 71st. Leader once again is good old Charlie Christmas from Tallahassee, Fla., who now has 264.68 club points. Second is John Petrie from Long Beach, Calif., with 254.06. Carlton Stone is 40th.
I didn’t expect to crack the Top 100 on the national Mini-McKenney list and, after a look at the break-off point, I’m not likely to. Leader is James Gross of Lee’s Summit, Mo., with 552.17, followed by Margaret Hart of Baton Rouge, La., with 496.80. District 5 leader Creager is eighth. The list breaks off at 262.02. No Western New Yorkers are on it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bridge Blog 587: Heat persists

With success comes over-confidence and I’ve been feeling enough of it to start worrying. I saw the danger signs Wednesday at the end of an extraordinarily breezy game (see Blog 586) with Celine Murray at the Airport Bridge Club.
With two rounds to go, we were flying along at nearly 66%, then ran into bad tables back-to-back.
Doing poorly against Paul Ganley and Mike Kisiel is not a total surprise – Mike pulled a 3 NT bid out the air and took all 13 tricks for a top board – but I wasn’t ready to do just as bad against Sandra Silverberg and Pat Kilbury, who are C strat players. We did, though, with Celine failing to transfer me into her six-card Heart suit on one hand and me failing to take the winning Spade finesse on another.
As a result, we wound up tied for first overall with Sandy and Pat at 59.03%. I thought that was just fine. First is first, even if it’s a tie, but Celine thought we should have the top spot all to ourselves. It gave us another 2.19 points, also a good thing. Three days, 5.07 points.
With Marietta Kalman on Thursday, I tried to play a more grounded game for a couple of reasons. First of all, my luck had to run out sooner or later and, second, I didn’t want to alarm her, although I couldn’t resist taking her 3 NT opener up to 6 NT with a six-point hand. My reasoning – everybody else would stop at 3 NT and, if the slam was there, we’d get it. Not! Missing the Ace of Spades, Marietta needed to finesse the King of Hearts to make it and the King was off-side. She ended up down two.
Even playing carefully, we ran into problems. I misunderstood her bidding over 1 NT openers (she plays systems off if the opponents bid) and messed up the bidding on a couple of hands that should have turned out better. It wasn’t a total disaster, though. We finished second North-South in the B strat with 51.15%, earning 0.97 of a point. Four days, 6.04 points.
This winning streak could come to a halt on Friday, though. I’ve promised to play with my neighbor, Char Caprino, and fond as I am of her, she’s not a strong player. Can I lift her into master point territory? We’ll see.

Bridge Blog 585: Look, ma, no hands!

I woke up in a giddy mood Wednesday, probably from not enough sleep, and it carried over to the bridge table where my high spirits were further heightened by this hand, where I took a flier and reaped a big payoff.
It was Board 6 in this 4½ table Howell movement and we were first to play it. East-West (Judy Zeckhauser and Judy Kaprove, respectively) were vulnerable. East was dealer. Three passes to me, sitting North with this hand:

Spades: A-10-8-4; Hearts: 9-7-2
Diamonds: A-K-4; Clubs: J-7-2

Flat hand, 12 high card points, but it must be good for something, especially if we’re not vulnerable. Aware of my spot in the balancing seat, I decided to add 3 points to my count. 15! 1 No Trump. Partner Celine Murray brightened and bumped it straight up to 3 NT. Oops! Earlier, she forgot about the Jacoby 2 NT convention, so I shouldn’t have expected her to remember about the balancing seat. Nevertheless, her hand wasn’t so bad. It’s just that there were only six sure tricks between the two of us.

Spades: K-Q; Hearts: J-8-5
Diamonds: Q-J-9; Clubs: Q-9-8-6-5

Did Judy Zeckhauser lead a Diamond or the Ace-King of Clubs? I’m not sure. But at any rate, if it was a Diamond, then I went to work right away setting up the Clubs. The upshot was that I won three Spades, three Diamonds and three Clubs, dodging those deadly Hearts until the very end thanks to the opponents’ mismatched distribution. Here are their hands:

East

Spades: 7-6; Hearts: K-6
Diamonds: 8-7-6-3-2; Clubs: A-K-10-4

West

Spades: J-9-5-3-2; Hearts: A-Q-10-4-3
Diamonds: 10-5; Clubs: 3

It felt like grand larceny, but it wasn’t, really. According to the traveling score slip after the game, the next people who played it made nine tricks at No Trump, but stopped bidding at 1 NT. Another pair went to 4 Clubs and made it. Bottom board went to the last North-South, where South (!) played it at 2 NT, got a fatal Heart lead from West, and won only six tricks.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bridge Blog 584: The waiting game

September master points have been tallied at the Airport Bridge Club and I’m first by a country mile, 13 points ahead of second-place John Ziemer. September’s 31.80 club points, plus the 3.78 from the sectional, also should result in a bodacious boost in the Unit 116 and District 5 races.
Figuring that totals for the year now are 141.87 for Ace of Clubs and 166.85 for Mini-McKenney points, let’s do some projections. For Unit 116, that likely means a jump from sixth to third in Ace of Clubs competition, and from eighth to maybe as high as fifth in the Mini-McKenney. District-wide, let’s look for an advance from seventh to fourth in Ace of Clubs and from 25th to maybe 20th on the Mini-McKenney list. We’ll see how close these projections come when the ACBL updates the master point races next Monday.
Meanwhile, October is off to a promising start. A surprisingly good 56.58% game with rookie Judy Zeckhauser on Monday brought us in third overall and gave us 0.45 of a point (no double points this time).
Tuesday’s double session found me and Beverly Dale sputtering to an unproductive 46.60% in the morning game, but rebounding smartly in the triple-point afternoon session. We came in first North-South with 54.92%, first in the B strat overall, earning 2.43 points. Nearly three points in two days! Dare we hope for a point per day again?